The lychee fruit is a fruit that originally came from Asia and is now becoming more popular in cooler regions of the world. Although it has been growing in the United States (in Hawaii or Florida) for many years, many people are still not sure how to eat it.
Lychee may look like strawberry with its skin full of little bumps but the outer skin is actually tough. This is why some people have been calling them “alligator strawberries.“ This means, to eat it, you will have to peel the hard skin off. Inside, it looks similar to a peeled grape although it has a big seed in the middle. This seed is inedible and may be dangerous when eaten. The fruit itself, however, is sweet and delicious.
Interesting Facts About Lychees
- It is believed to have originated in China and grows in the southern part of the country, as well as subtropical parts of Asia like India. It has been cultivated for more than 2 centuries. In the 18th Century, it was introduced to Jamaica and soon after, it started being grown in the subtropical areas of the United States.
- The tree of the lychee fruit grows up to 40 feet high and needs warm but humid weather to grow. It also needs some cooler periods so that the flower bud develops, which means tropical weather is not suitable for the tree.
- Some people fear eating lychee because consuming the seed can cause issues with the digestive system. However, this is restricted to the seed, while the fruit itself is actually good for your stomach.
- The lychee fruit can be eaten fresh or dried. When dried, it has a slightly smoky flavor. However, another popular form is the canned one, which takes away the work of removing the skin and the seed.
Health Benefits Of Lychees
Lychees are not just a sweet snack, but they can also be very good for your health. This is one of the reasons why adding this fruit to your diet can be beneficial for you. Here are some research-backed health benefits of lychees.
- Lowers Risk Of Cancer
Cancer Letters, a medical journal, published a study that discussed the potential anti-cancer properties of the lychee fruit extract. Specifically, it has polyphenolic compounds that are potent antioxidants. It can inhibit the growth of cancer cells and even promoted these cells to self-destruct (through a process of apoptosis).
- Reduce Inflammation
Lychee has been identified through research as having 6 phenolic compounds, specifically catechin, gallic acid, chlorogenic acid, epicatechin, rutin, and caffeic acid. The walls of the intestinal tract can absorb these easily, and these phenolic acids have an antioxidant role in your body. Thus, it stops cellular damage that can occur due to oxidative stress. Eating lychee can lower these inflammation levels.
- Treat Chronic Disease
Rutin, the phenolic compounds mentioned above, has antioxidant, antimicrobial, antiallergic, and antifungal properties. It has also been proven by research to be suitable for treating chronic diseases like hypertension, diabetes, and hypercholesterolemia (very high cholesterol levels).
- Improve Your Brain And Muscles
Lychee has been tested to have at least 32 proanthocyanidins, a type of antioxidant. One of these is epicatechin, which is great for overall health. It is also good for muscle growth and can enhance your brain’s performance.
- Prevent Depression
The body does not produce any vitamin B6, which is why it is important to eat foods that are rich in this vitamin. It is great at mood regulation because it produces critical neurotransmitters affecting emotional stability. In fact, research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition states that higher vitamin B6 intake has been linked to less severe depression symptoms.
- Regulate Blood Pressure Levels
Lychee has high levels of potassium, which is unexpected given the size of the fruit. Thus, it contributes to preventing very high blood pressure levels and reduces stroke risks. Beyond that, it prevents kidney stones from forming and prevents the bones from demineralizing. The latter means lychee can prevent osteoporosis.
- Improves Your Endurance
Lychee is a great source of vitamin C, which means you can enjoy all of the benefits of this nutrient when you eat this fruit. This includes its effect on your endurance while doing physical exercise. This benefit has been proven by research in the Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition, specifically that lychee fruit extract has led to improved running times during a treadmill test.
Finding The Best Lychees And Storing Them
If you happen to live in places where the lychee fruit grows, then you need to know the right time to pick them. The fruit will no longer ripen once they have been picked off the tree. Harvest-ready ones are bright red in color and have no blemishes. The skin feels leathery and hard, but it is pliable when ripe. Inside, the fruit should not taste sour. Any lychee that has cracks, leaks, or has a fermented smell is overripe.
When you go to the store, you still need to look out for the same things to find the best fruit. Make sure you choose ones that you can consume quickly because as the fruit ages, it can lose water and turn tough. It may also start to fuse together. Thus, it is best to consume any lychees immediately after buying them.
To keep them fresh, you should store any lychees with the skin unbroken. Wrap them in some paper towel and inside a plastic bag with some holes. They can be stored in the fridge for at most a week because they will start to ferment. Alternatively, you can freeze the lychee fruit by placing the entire fruit in a sealed bag and removing as much of the air in the bag as possible before closing it.
Eating Lychees Fresh
Enjoying this fruit fresh is quite easy and you get to enjoy all the nutrients best. The first step is, of course, finding ripe lychees. When they are still hard, they are still edible but they will not taste as good. If it is too wet and soft, it is overripe and can already be fermented or rotten. It will then taste quite strong or unpleasant. When the skin is soaked or crushed, it is most likely rotten, especially when the skin is brown.
The next step is to peel the skin to reveal the white fruit. You might want to do this on top of a bowl just in case some of the juice drips. When the skin is tough to peel, it means it has been out a while. You can use a knife to make it easier, or you can soak the lychee first. The skin should then be easy to remove and you can pop the fruit inside.
Afterward, you need to remove the skin, which is in the middle of the fruit. You can do it by tearing the flesh using your fingers. You can then remove the brown seed and throw it away. There is a thin membrane, brown in color, between the flesh and the seed. This is edible and is a bit crunchy. Removing is not worth it, because you can lose the tasty juice.
What remains now is the flesh, which should be juicy, crisp, and sweet. It also has a distinct scent that the canned version does not have. If the flesh is very transparent, mottles, or colored yellow-brown, it is rotten already.
Other Ways To Eat Lychees
Beyond eating them raw, there are other ways to enjoy this sweet fruit. This means, if you happen to have too much for you to eat fresh, you can either freeze them or add them to these recipes instead.
- First is to add your peeled lychees to your fruit salad. This is great especially during the summer months because it has a lot of water and is good for keeping you hydrated. Make sure, however, to add them last because they tend to lose the juice quickly.
- Another good idea is to stuff the lychee after you remove the seed. You can mix together some soft cheese and add nuts, honey, or ginger before stuffing the fruit.
- Lychees also make for a great cocktail garnish. Pitted lychees can be skewered to a small stick and then served alongside light cocktails like margaritas. It can also go very well with a lychee sake martini.
- The sweet taste of the lychee can be an amazing addition to salsa. Mix together lychees, red onion, avocado, and whatever salsa topping you like.
- You can also cook lychee, specifically in recipes like lychee chicken or even to simply add it to a roasting pan before the dish is finished.
- Lychees can also be added to smoothies and dessert sauce.
- Dried lychee is quite like a raisin, which means you can eat it as is or can be added to oatmeal and granola.
This versatile fruit is a great addition to your diet and your kitchen, so you can practice preparing this fruit and adding them to your favorite dishes. Thanks to globalization and improved logistics, you can now enjoy lychees wherever you are in the world.